CFI or not?

I haven’t started training yet, however I am curious… If and when I finish all my training receiving all my required licenses and ratings, Is there an alternative to build hours other than being a CFI? Is it recommended to just be a CFI because it is faster to build hours?


There are options other than flight instructing, but they are less common. Other ways to build flight time include banner towing, flying traffic watch, working for a charter company, etc. The problem with these kinds of jobs is that they can sometimes be difficult to find and they oftentimes do not yeild flight time as quickly as instructing does.

Before you write off instructing, keep in mind that it really can be a great experience. I was nervous about instructing when I first started, but I very quickly adapted to the role and ended up really enjoying it.



Your question is very common among aspiring pilots. I’d even say that most of the students that I worked with voiced their concern of being a flight instructor one way or another, only to end up finishing the program and becoming great instructors.

Like Chris said, don’t write it off so soon. You will see that it is actually a great way to build hours. I’m sure it’s better than 1200hrs of flying REALLY slow with a Geico ad trailing behind you…


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There are alternatives and I encourage you to investigate them, BUT there’s a reason the majority of pilots flying for the airlines built their time instructing.


Hi guys,

I’m a new ATP student and was about to ask this same question, so I’ll add on with one more, if you don’t mind. I recently had a friend (non-ATP) who was hired as an FO with a small CA-based airline called Surf Air.

When I first heard about this I thought, “wow, great gig” and it seemed like being an FO for even a small airline might make him a more attractive candidate to a regional/major than someone like me who planned to be a CFI. But then I remembered a similar post on here about CFIs building hours faster.

So my two questions are: 1) Am I right, would his resume look better than mine if he was an actual FO and I was a CFI? and 2) would I probably get to 1500 faster than him as a CFI?

Thanks in advance!



Matt, I looked up Surf Air, they are flying Pilatus, which is actually designed to be flown as a single pilot airplane. Your friend’s role as a first officer is most likely to meet insurance requirements, not FAA requirements. As such, recording his flight time opens up a whole set of discussions about what can be logged and what can’t. Furthermore, it also means that he is probably only flying legs where no passengers are on board, if he is flying much at all. Basically he is a warm body in the seat to meet an insurance requirement for having two pilots.

This flight time will not make him attractive to the majors at all, he will still need to go to a regional first. Now, the regionals might like it, but I suspect that he will get lots of questions in his interview about the actual quantity and quality of his flight time.

I would stick with the instructing path, it is the tried and true way to the airlines. There is a reason that the vast majority of civilian pilots were instructors first, it is the fastewst way to the airlines and produces the best airline candidates.



As I said there obviously are alternatives to flight instructing but there’s a reason why that’s the route most pilots take. As Chris said I can tell you for certain your friend’s resume won’t be any more attractive than a flight instructors (AND if I were conducting the interview I ask him to explain to me how he logged SIC time in an aircraft requiring a single pilot?). I can also tell you that flying with students daily will make you sharper than simply slinging gear. As for who’ll get the hours first that depends on whose flying more hours per month. The average ATP instructor builds about 75hrs per month. How many will your friend build? If the number is higher than 75 than yes he may get there faster. If it’s lower then he won’t.


Thanks a lot for your responses, Chris and Adam. Makes sense!

I’ve heard a few CFIs comment that they actually fly the plane very little. What’s the best way to keep up stick and rudder skills (and ideally not have to pay for it)?


I would argue those are CFIs without many students. Depending on what phase of training your students are in, you should find yourself demonstrating maneuvers quite frequently. I never found it to be a problem. In addition by teaching ground school you also have the opportunity to be reviewing not only flying techniques, but the regulations.